Tracing 49ers’ downfall to a fateful play in 2012 playoffs

Today we’re going to play the what-if game. First, some background:

Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. The day the 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. One of the greatest days in 49ers franchise history, and one of the darkest days as well.

Click here to read the rest of my Wednesday column.

This article has 184 Comments

  1. And everyone lived happily ever after. Cool story, Grant. Almost felt like it was a holiday special, Ted Ginn Got Run Over By A Cornerback….

  2. Ha! This one is pretty good and probably right on point. If not for Ginn the 49ers probably would have won back to back Super Bowls too!

    1. This is one of Grant’s best articles. KW absolutely lost that game single handily. If Tedd Ginn was playing we would have 7 Lombardi’s right now

  3. Well grant you get me to click…though I know I shouldn’t since I know what I’m about to read is garbage. But…kudos to you.

    What is the refs didn’t screw over the niners in 83 playoffs against was? What if Craig didn’t fumble against NYG? What if Harbaugh doesn’t call a costly time out against BAL? What ifs are worthless….they ignore the (in these cases) unfortnate reality in which we live.

    And if you think Smith would still be our QB in your scenario you don’t know Jim Harbaugh. He might of lasted a couple more years but he’d be gone by now.

    1. Tell me, is Smith still in the league, leading a team who are currently 8-3. Is he not a qb who is 37-19 since joining the chiefs, one of the highest win percentages of qbs since joining that team, hell, since 2011.

      Harbs would have no reason to unseat Smith if they were winning and had won 1 SB. That team was perfectly built and run as Harbs liked to run an offense. Look at what he did at Stanford and what hes doing at Michigan. Its not the Saints offense or the 80 Chargers. He runs a run dominant, heavy offense. He has a defense that smothers. He values ball security. Smith was perfect for that offense, more than Kaep.

      1. They wouldn’t have reached the SB the following year with Smith imo. The unknown of Kap and his huge rushing production in the playoffs was the biggest reason they got there. They wouldn’t have had that from Smith and he couldn’t have overcome the poor play of the defense like Kap did.

        1. Bah. Kaepernick had a big game running against GB, a team Smith had already beat on the road earlier in the season. Saying he couldn’t have done that again is a stretch. In the NFCCG he had only 21 yards running.

          At the time of his injury Smith was playing the best football of his career to that point. He’d just beat the Seahawks for the 3rd straight time, was 25-27 passing over his last 5 quarters and was really clicking with Crabtree. Heck he won a free lunch for me from a bet. ?

          Heck, they may have tied Atlanta for the best record had Smith not been injured. They likely don’t tie and lose to the Rams. Not sure how the tie breakers would have worked for home field though.

          1. Smith could not generate the offense Kap did during that playoff run, and they needed every yard of it due to the defense playing so poorly. I agree Smith was playing well, but Kap put them over the top that year by making the offense more explosive.

              1. Haven’t changed my mind about blowing it up and exterminating the facility, but they’re not gonna do it. Putting our fantasies on hold, it’s about what I think they’ll do. I think Baalke/Kaepernick are both on board the Chip when the season sets sail next year. I stand by my observation of Kaepernick’s movement within the pocket improvement, as well as his decisions on when to take off. Those two areas are where I’ve seen the biggest growth….

            1. That’s horse crap! Harbaugh knew he had limited weapons on offense so he put Kap in because of his running ability.
              It was a huge mistake.

              1. He put Kap in because Smith suffered a concussion. He stuck with Kap because the offense was more explosive with him in both the run and pass. It was not a mistake. They wouldn’t have made it that far without Kap.

              2. It worked up until there was enough film on him and until the Ravens said they were gonna force him to throw and hit him at every chance. It also allowed Harbaugh to shade Romans incompetence to give Alex more variability in the offense. Looks like Andy is doing that now with Smith, passing all over the field.
                Since the SB, the book was out on Kap. The element of the unknown is why he took the league by storm!

              3. Andy Reid coddles Alex Smith in the same way Harbaugh did. If you’re waiting for Alex to lead the Chiefs to the promise land, you’ll be waiting a loooong time….

              4. Kaepernick brings you to the gates of the promised land, and then gets tackled two yards away.

              5. I’m not waiting for anything. All I know is Smith is a better QB and the 49ers made the wrong choice!

              6. Kaepernick was at the Pearly Gates but the locks refused his key. I put the game on the coaching staff. Harbaugh had them waaay too tight coming into the game. He should have pulled a Walsh and greeted them as a bellman or something. I would also argue that the fade to the corner of the endzone was neither Mr. Crabs nor Kap’s strength. Should have ran the ball with Gore twice, a naked bootleg once and a throw in the middle of the endzone to either Davis or Walker….

              7. Not sure why we even debate Kaepernick. I think this being his 5th year in the league, he has proven what he is.

              8. What can be proven is that Smith is a starter for a team that is 8-3, has been to the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years, is on its way to its 3rd playoff appearance in 4 years, on his way to his 4th winning season in a row (6th if you count 2011 & 2012)….

                Kaep…well…we all know what happened to him. He has steadily declined year over year since 2012. He has proven to be a 1 trick pony…more like a one trick mule recently. And he has yet to win a game in over 1 year…

                The choice was obvious, Smith was the better qb for Harbs and the better qb now. Kaep may have the bigger arm and is faster in a straight line, but thats 2 of the 15 or so keys to being a qb, and 2 of the less important ones. The leagues history is filled with guys who could throw the ball a mile, who could run (in a straight line) pretty fast…success they had was fleeting.

              9. Most QB’s could make it to the playoffs with a great defense and running game and Smith is no exception. I like and respect Alex a great deal, but he’s a limited QB whose best attribute is playing a conservative style that reduces TO’s. His numbers are pedestrian and if the defense isn’t playing lights out, the Chiefs don’t win because the offense can’t score a lot of points.

              10. Why is it people just refuse to accept Alex Smith for what he is and not get offended or call you a hater when you point it out. These are the same people who point out Kaepernick’s deficiencies, and we acknowledge it and move on….

              11. Easier to build a team around a guy like Smith than Kap for many reasons.
                The first of those is the offensive line.How many times has Kaepernick scrambled and improvised only to create self-inflicted pressure that was never there.
                Also, with a guy like Smith you can build a pro style/NFL offence around. He has the ability to be mobile and an accurate passer. Kaepernick is strictly a mobile quarterback.
                Smith is a team guy, players around him respect him and appreciate him, he’s a team first guy in return. We all know what Kaepernick brought to the 49ers the past two years. Unacceptable distractions. Unnecessary distractions. I don’t think he’s a guy you build a franchise around.

              12. Razor you have anknowldeged Kaps shortcoming but in the same breath say he has shown improvement. Well is that enough to continue this trial and experiment even after all these shortcomings? Even after being in the league 5 years, one good and four declining!

              13. Razor,

                I think it’s because a lot of fans developed an emotional attachment to Smith while he went through hell here and eventually persevered. I respect him a great deal for the way he’s carved out a solid career after going through things that may have ended it for a lot of players. He’s also extremely likable as a person and that also is a reason many continue to support and stick up for him. The reality is however, that he is an average talent who plays an extremely conservative style heavily reliant on the defense and running game. I want more from a QB than that and that is why while I like Alex and appreciate what he was able to do here, I don’t see him as much if any better than what we have right now. While it will likely take a few more years, It’s time for the Niners to focus on finding a Franchise QB and stop trotting out place holders.

              14. Rocket…

                Alex has better career numbers than Troy Aikman. Granted their careers were separated by a decade, and the game has changed, but even for his time Aikmans numbers were middle of the road. And the guy had an all time great team!

                He was a game manager, he was a guy who would get you 199 yards a game (and no running), maybe a passing td a game and 1 int a game. Yet he is a Hall of Famer, why…because he had an ALL TIME RB, an ALL TIME OLINE, a HoF (debatable) WR, and a very good TE and FB, a top defense(w/HoFers)….and a great HC and OC. When Smith retires will they say he had an all time great oline? Or a Hall Of Fame WR? A great HC and OC? Half of his career he had rotating doors at WR, Oline, and his defense didn’t get good until 5 years into his career.

                Its pretty obvious you don’t watch a lot of Chiefs games. Going back to his first year with them the guy had games where he had to carry the defense *cough* wild card vs Indy *cough cough*.

                Can you just accept the fact that Smith was and is the better NFL quarterback than Colin, that it was a mistake to make the move away from him and that Colin will never find the level of success that Smith has.

                11 years in the league as a starter a pedestrian QB does not get.

              15. eMJay,

                Aikman was a far superior passer to Smith. Smith is a dink and dunk specialist. There is no comparison between them as far as passing goes. There is also one reason Aikman is in the HOF and that is because he owns 3 SB rings. If Smith had those you’d have a case but he doesn’t. Aikman’s numbers are low for a HOF and in this era, they are miniscule.

                I’ve watched plenty of Chief games actually and I stand by what I’ve said. Singling out one game in 4 years where he put up some big numbers does not help your argument. For most of his time in KC, he’s put up minimal passing stats and has relied on defense and the running game. He’s not a guy who’s going to put an offense on his back and win games for you. That isn’t his style and never has been.

                There is a case to be made that Smith is the better QB overall, but if he is it sure isn’t by much. Neither player is more than an average talent in this league. It was not a mistake to move away from him at all. They got two second round picks for him which was a nice return and got to a SB and NFCCG with Kap in successive years. Kap was awful last year but I’m betting Smith wouldn’t have been much better in the same situation. As it is, Smith has one of the best offensive minds in the game as his HC and puts up bottom half of the league numbers.

                I don’t quite get your statement that Kap will never find the level of success Smith has though. That doesn’t make any sense considering Kap has taken a team to a SB and Smith hasn’t. If you are referring to Smith’s time in KC, then I’m obligated to point out that he hasn’t achieved anything of substance yet.

                Plenty of average QB’s have had long careers in the league. Smith doesn’t turn the ball over which HC’s like. What they don’t like is when they get behind and have to rely on that same QB to put points on the board.

              16. You peaked my curiosity, Grant. After crunching the numbers, I wonder if Aikman ranked dead last in ALEX year after year….

              17. LOL. The guy makes plays in the clutch to win games, but we’re going to focus on an ALEX stat.

              18. Alex Smith was clutch against the Steelers, and he’s a concussion away from retirement. He’s playing like it too….

              19. Smith will end his career with more 4QC and comeback wins than Aikman. He’s already ahead and has played fewer games.

                Say what you’d like. Chiefs might end up as the 1 seed in the AFC.

              20. Good luck to you and Alex Smith. I’m just not a believer, and neither were 31 other teams….

              21. Andy Reid was the only coach that had confidence in his ability, stellar staff and defense to provide the assistance that Alex Smith needs to be successful. Harbaugh resurrected his career into two 2nd Round draft pics, and Harbaugh also built Levi’s Stadium. Alex Smith is a great check down quarterback, has all the numbers but no rings. I was glad to see him go, and I thanked him for his service and wished him well. Same goes with Kaeptain and To Kneel. The one who led the team to the pearly gates, but the locks refused his key. Let’s see Alex lead the Chiefs to the pearly gates, then I will become a believer….

              22. Andy Reid, he helped build the Eagles back when they made the playoffs all the time. Kelly did pretty well with Andy’s team. Then the Chipstick and Gamble dismantled the team. I don’t want Chip around for our next draft. Any combination of Baalke, Gamble, and Kelly will doom the 49ers for years to come. They all have to go.

              23. Rocket…

                The reason Aikman has those 3 SB rings is because of the team he was on, he lived in a world pre-fantasy football stat erections, he had a running back who averaged ~1660 yards in the 3 super bowl seasons. It wasn’t Aikman who made that offense go. He was the game managing qb of a run dominant offense that had an elite level defense.

                You can not credit Colin for going to the SB that year, a Super Bowl they lost. That team was going when Alex was qb, Colin did nothing to change that destiny.

                And yeah, I think making the playoffs 2 of 3 years (going to be 3 of 4) and putting up 4 consecutive winning seasons (6 if you count 2011 & 2012) is something, especially when that team was 2 – 14 the season before his arrival.

                Colin has done nothing but regress as a qb year over year.

              24. eMJay,

                The reason Aikman has those 3 SB rings is because of the team he was on, he lived in a world pre-fantasy football stat erections, he had a running back who averaged ~1660 yards in the 3 super bowl seasons. It wasn’t Aikman who made that offense go. He was the game managing qb of a run dominant offense that had an elite level defense.

                I know, that’s why clearly said the only reason Aikman is in the HOF is because of the the 3 SB rings. In other words, his numbers are not HOF worthy.

                You can not credit Colin for going to the SB that year, a Super Bowl they lost. That team was going when Alex was qb, Colin did nothing to change that destiny.

                Yes I can and most objective observers have said the same thing about that year. With the defense playing as poorly down the stretch and into the playoffs as it did, they needed more from the offense and Kap gave them that. Smith was good that season for the most part, but the offense was more explosive with Kap and that was the difference in getting to the SB that year.

                And yeah, I think making the playoffs 2 of 3 years (going to be 3 of 4) and putting up 4 consecutive winning seasons (6 if you count 2011 & 2012) is something, especially when that team was 2 – 14 the season before his arrival.

                I didn’t say it wasn’t. I’m saying you are giving way too much credit to Smith for those results. He’s a bottom third of the league QB in production and has been for most of his career including every year he’s been in KC. He is heavily reliant on the running game and defense to win ball games. His strengths are his intelligence and not turning the ball over. That is also a weakness because his game can be so conservative at times it is counter productive. He is not a good downfield thrower and the offense is limited because of that.

                Colin has done nothing but regress as a qb year over year.

                He’s playing much better this season compared to last and his overall passing numbers when he’s played are comparable to Smith’s, so I don’t think this is a good way to make your argument. It shows what I said previously in that neither Kap nor Smith are anything more than average players or below at the position.

            2. Now basing things on what you believe the organization will do? You sound like a company man content with that. That’s sad!

              1. Let me be clear, Prime. I’m not content with the status quo, but constantly bitching about it would only lead to an identity crisis. It seems you’re on the verge of one; > )

              2. We need a QB to get back to relevance and to not tarnish the legacy of this franchise. So yes, this is the biggest off-season move in franchise history.
                Without a legit QB and drafting another dlinemen just means the 49ers are a business and not a football team.
                And yes I agree. This is a monumental identity crisis situation. For me for you for all 49er fans!

              3. The current QB’s could probably be close to .500 if not for a better defense. That might not sound like much but it would be enough to carry us over another year until better QB options are available.

            3. The fact that losing one player derailed the 2012 team speaks volumes. The team got as far as they did because everything fell into place for them that season. A lot of players had career seasons. The team set a new NFL record for turn over to take aways. The next season it decreased by 19. Another major drop off they had was in respect to special teams and the field position that provided. Ginns injury was an example of the effect just that one aspect had on the team. Two turnovers by his replacement and the lost field position his returns would have provided really hurt the team. The 2012 team also relied on field goals that were also a part of special teams. Akers had an outstanding year in 2012 but because of injury was unreliable the following year. Ad that to the injuries to both Smiths that transformed a top defense to one that allowed 29 plus points a game after the Pats game and you have different offensive requirements which Alex Smith would not have been able to provide.

              I do agree that they probable would have won a Super Bowl that year, beyond that is mostly speculation. The injury bug that began to hit this team the following year had a huge impact. That along with the decline of abilities of many of the vets was also a factor. The team seemed to have used up all it’s good fortune in the 2011/12 season. A team needs both talent and Luck. We should never underestimate the value of luck.

              What makes me question the objectivity of the Alex people is their inability of perceive the variables that played a major factor in the 2011/12 season. I suppose people tend to see what they want to see.

  4. Since we’re playing the “what if” game.
    What if the 49ers had drafted Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
    What the 49ers would have packaged some of their draft picks to move up in the draft for a WR.
    What if the 49ers not passed on Zak Prescott.
    Ahhh, what if.

      1. Rodgers and Nolan would be gone by now had the 49ers drafted him. Think Chris Webber v Don Nelson.

  5. I bet the Yorks and Baalke are wondering why they did not think of that.

    1. And I’ll double down that they’re thinking of how to fake interviews with Ohio State’s Urban Myers, and Alabama’s, Nick Saban, to jack the PSL holders up, get more cash, only to drive their coach search party back to Santa Clara for another low rent Tomsula-like, bargain basement coach.

  6. Leaves out the fact that Alex Smith had no ability to move his offense in the second half. We could have played ten OTs–we weren’t going to score on a legitimate offensive drive. Our defense was so good that the only hope would have been a turnover. Theirs, not ours.

    1. They lost by 3 in OT….neither offense was doing anything. It was 328 yards for SF and 352 yards for the Giants. Niners were more balanced, NYG was pass happy.

      Look at the drives for both teams. SF had 6 punts, a TD, a FG, and a drive that ended with the end of the 4th. NY had 10 punts, a TD, and the game winning FG….which came off their last punt.

      Only reason NYG won was because of the ST error.

      And still, SF lost by 3 in OT off a muffed punt.

    1. The Craig fumble was an example of change of destiny. If Craig doesn’t fumble Young replaces Montana earlier. Montana would not have been able to play in the SB and Young would have been the starter and the NIner’s would have won. Replacing Montana was Walsh’s ultimate intention and it just would have happened sooner.

  7. 49ers Next Loss, Chicago:

    Despite the gluttony of injuries, Chicago still ranks 11th in yards allowed this season.

    1. The seasons young, there’s still time for the late hit knock out punch on Kap. That is, I’m waiting for a linebacker to treat Kap, like they do Frank Gore, and hit him while he’s tripped to the ground, lying prone on his stomach, and in comes the kill shot….It’s only a 15 yarder, so why not?….Treat Kap like all running backs get treated in the NFL.

  8. You forgot, “…What if Alex Smith hadn’t missed a wide open Kyle Williams for a for-sure touchdown…”

    1. BPA,

      Credit where credit is due:

      Alex Smith sure looked good in overtime against the SuperBowl Champs last night, didn’t he, Champs, what do you think?

      1. Do You think Kansas City will win the SuperBowl this year. With Andy Reid, part of the Holmgren/Walsh coaching tree coaching him, KC could go all the way.

        So sad, that Jim Harbaugh, tutored directly by Walsh at Stanford, drafted Kap in the 2nd rd. only to have Jed fire a Bill Walsh coach.

        You could say the York’s are 0-2 in that department. 1st, they fired Steve Marriucci when he asked for total control, only to give to Mike Nolan, who had none of that experience.

        Then, When Harbaugh asked for more control, they guessed wrong again, giving total control to Baalke….York’s 0-2 on Bill Walsh coaches….Well guess what. They’re suffering the consequences of their actions.

        1. Yeah, Alex Smith doing well…..never was an Alex Smith hater. But the point of the NFC championship game vs. NYG is that all the OT fumbles could have been mute if Alex could connect on a long ball to ice the game….I believe that is still his current criticism is connecting on the long throws.

          I think it KC could be building momentum, perhaps going all the way. In the NFC, I’m quietly watching how the Giants finish and the game vs. DAL might tell if they’re a surprise team in the NFC.

          1. The thing is that the strength of a team lies in the ability to over come individual mistakes. I think it is unfair to point out one thing that Alex didn’t do as an example of why the team lost the game. The team relied too much on field position and defense. Every QB misses passes and makes bad throws. The team got to where they were without relying too much on Alex. He and the team would have been fine that season if Ginn doesn’t get injured. Now the next season it would have been a different story. Harbaugh recognized that which is why he made the change.

            1. The team was 6-2 with Smith when he was concussed vs the Rams. They had beaten the Pack in GB (something that hadn’t happened since before Favre), the Lions, and the Seahawks…3 playoff teams from the year prior and the Pack and Hawks both made the playoffs, so its not as if the team wasn’t capable of beating anyone that year. They averaged 369 yards of offense that season pre Rams game. After the Rams game, with Kaep in, the offense went to 356 yards per game. Its not as if the team got remarkably better with him on offense, its not as if they were struggling with Alex…this team was going to the SB with either, we all saw Kaep come up short, some of us feel Alex would have got that ring.

        2. Never bought the thought that Harbaugh was a Bill Walsh guy. He’s a power run guy, NOT a West Coast, long handoff guy. Yes, he had a chance to listen to and study Walsh, but none of it sank in.

  9. I think a good number of posters are missing the point of this article. I believe Grant is using this article to add a sarcastic and artistic spin on the “what if” scenario so many love to employ on here. This is at least my interpretation of the article.

  10. What if Scot McCloughan didn’t have a drinking problem that caused us to release him? I think that’s the biggest thing that put us in a downward spiral. Baalke rode the wave for a while, then he got exposed and by then had ruined the franchise.

    Or better yet, what if Eddie D didn’t pay that bribe? :-(

    1. Good one Shemp. We”d still have the deepest roster in the NFL.

      Grant this was fun and depressing at the same time. Thanks I enjoyed it.

    2. What if York recognized the fact that you do not hire a person that suffers from OCD as your GM. That should be the biggest what if.

    1. 16 years of York leadership….Are you that nearsighted, man, to focus on one player.

      One player does not a football team make, Man, wake up! It’s the York’s that upset all. Kap is only the only accessible extension.

      We always have to wait until year’s end for the York’s to issue a flimbsy public statement about accountability and raising championship banners, hoping to fool a few others into buying their lousy product.

  11. What if we kept Lott and Craig?
    What if we didn’t get Lawrence Phillips?
    What if we didn’t get screwed in the SB?
    What if Alex could connect with a WR or anyone downfield?
    What if Harbaugh fired Roman?
    What if we didn’t get screwed against NY?
    What if the NFL didn’t want a Brady/Manning rematch?

    1. What if we resigned McCafferdy to what he got from Denver ( about 400,00 ) instead of drafting Stokes.

    1. I think Chip on the offensive side is making progress. He needs to get a new DC and DB coach. We need Tomsula “the butcher” back as the DL coach. York lost two good coaches with the harbaugh firing – Harbaugh as HC and Tomsula as DL coach.
      If Chip replaces DC and some Defensive coaches I would be for keeping him and allowing him to get the offense to make progress.

  12. So if Grant is right Chip will take the Oregon job Monday. Please let it be true. Please let it be true.

  13. Kind of true, but I think missing out on Manning to Denver at Harbaughs start was the true loss that we ignore.

    If Payton Manning came here instead of Denver. We would have won at least 2 Super Bowls for sure maybe 3 considering our defense was better than Denvers in 2011-2013 and our running game & line were at the top of the league.

    Loosing Manning was a Big ego mistake by Harbaugh & Baalke together. He would have come if Harbs would agreed to run Payton’s offense–what a mistake. Far more of a loss and real franchise game changer than Ginn.

    1. You are forgetting that Payton requires pass protection. Our line was geared to the run not pass protection. How long do you think he would have lasted here.You also forget the effect Paytons salary would have had on the Cap. Many players would have had to be released so the team would not have been the same. Manning is not stupid. He went to a team that suited his talents. He would not have made as big of a difference at SF. It was a good move by both parties.

  14. Great column, Grant! Brought me a wistful smile. My 7 year-old son and I had such a great time watching that Saints game. Other than the SuperBowl win against the Bengals, I can’t remember another Niners playoff game with so much excitement packed in the last minute. Got a free ticket to the Championship game the following week only to see the game being fumbled away in the most crushing manner since Roger Craig’s fumble :(




    PICK 7:  RB Dalvin Cook
    PICK 15:  DB/LB Jabrill Peppers


    PICK 34:  DT Vita Vea
    PICK 47:  WR Zay Jones


    PICK 66:  CB Chidobe Awuzie
    PICK 77:  C Pat Elflein


    PICK 98:  TE Pharaoh Brown
    COMP PICK:  OL J.J. Dielman


    OLB/DE Bryan Cox
    QB Seth Russell


    NT Montravious Adams
    NCB Damontae  Kazee


    WR Michael Rector
    QB Sefo Luifau


    OLB Chandler Jones
    ILB Dont’a Hightower
    ILB Manti Te’o
    WR Rod Streator
    WR Cordarelle Patterson
    QB Mark Sanchez

    This was done under the premise that Kelly, Baalke, and Kaepernick will return in 2017.

    1. Mid – is Cook that good? Glad you got Pharaoh Brown at TE. He has 3rd round talent, he is so under the radar I was thinking maybe get him in the 6th.

      1. Yes Cook is that good. You may be surprised at how many sites say that Cook is the top RB in the upcoming draft.

              1. There would be an exception in my proposed draft and free agent pickups because Cook would be the BPA.

    2. Interesting Mid, but the only reason a team trades up and gives up that kind of compensation is for a QB, and the Titans already have theirs. I’d fire my GM if he traded away that many prime picks for a non QB pick.

      1. Usually, but not always. In this I would have the Titans trading up to take Jonathan Allen or over valuing Mike Williams.

    3. I am surprised no one is talking about the free agent additions I have. I figured those would be more scrutinized than what I am seeing.

      1. I like your Cordarelle Patterson selection, but would pass on the Butt fumbler.

        If Baalke is still GM, any FA signing is problematic.

  16. I remember that day very well. I do not remember the ted ginn injury but knew about if after the game, and that he would not be playing in the giants game. Which has me nervous because Williams had a problem as the back up punt returner with fumbles. Which showed full force in that game. Now those turn of events are just part of the game of football. Some times the ball bounces your way others it don’t. Jed York does not get that so keeps listing to balke. We all prey as 49er fans the he goes, and chip stays gets god GM and we rebuild hold onto kap ??? I know scary but this draft class has no clear cut QB. We have so many wholes that need to be filled. So stick with kaap let’s see if Kelly improves him even more. LAst thing Grant Cowin start sounding just like your dad in these articles. I could not stand reading his columns in the news paper all those years in the 80s and 90s and early 2000s the crap years. I would be deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq my parents sent them to me.Well u write just like him, make this your own. Not to bash your pops he was a great sports writer but not much respect with his peers and Always nasty comments for the team not finding a good angle to bring. Just my input there

    1. Clint, during the Glory Years, I would become Irate over what LC wrote, but in retrospect, he was using a psychological trick that seemed to make Walsh prove him wrong.

      I would open up the Green section, and start throwing things, but I also assiduously read every word he wrote, then I would read Herb Caen, just to calm down.

  17. Surprised nobody recalled the biggest what if in 49er history:

    What if Siefert and Policy did not trade Charles Haley to Dallas.

    That one trade alone cost the 49ers at least two Super bowls which went to Dallas instead.

  18. In my opinion the biggest turning point in the Giant game happened on the first 49er drive in the 3rd quarter. Delanie Walker was open down the sideline for what should have been a touchdown. Instead Alex Smith did not throw the ball for some reason, and took a drive killing sack.

    In my opinion, that play was the beginning of the end for Alex with the 49ers. I believe Harbaugh decided then and there that Alex was not going to be his QB of the future.

  19. what a BS article. we can play the what-if game all day and it doesnt change a thing. grant is such a garbage writer. go online and read articles on how chip kelly is transforming kaep and making him relevant (check the film breakdown articles). grant doesn’t have the football knowledge to do film studies on kelly’s gameplan for kaep.

    1. Geezus relax. It was a fun premise that brought back a few memories. Way too serious around here sometimes.

      1. Exactly, denials by coaches are meaningless.

        Having said that, what do you make of Knight being in OSU’s locker room after Saturday’s game? He’d love Myer, who’s out of reach, but might settle for Shiano.

        1. Makes me nervous. I want to be write so bad.

          That said, I doubt anyone would give Schiano $10 million a year, or anything close to that. You’d think Phil Knight would go after someone pricier, no?

          1. Based on an obscure Byron poem ‘Maid of Athens’. Describes Grant’s writing style to perfection.

            Man of letters ere we part
            Tell us why you never fart
            Never fart, dear Miss Bright?
            I don’t need to fart, I write.

            Now we know why Grant’s work smells.

        2. What does Myer have in his contract? I know he has ND in there, but I doubt Oregon is one of his schools he has that he can get out of his current contract for.

      2. 2 weeks later he was the Alabama coach.

        The bigger question…How can we add gifs from giphy like you did without having to use the link? Lol

    1. Helfrich is going to come to work for the Niners – new OC. No I don’t have any facts to back it up.

  20. Losing a super bowl sets you back a lot more than losing a CG, Kaepernick staring down a covered Crabtree on 3rd and goal from the 5 and not throwing to a wide open Delanie Walker was a killer

    1. Vision, another skill old wind up lacks. But hey, lets pay him 14.5million to come back because we have the money and he once took the league by storm for 12 games! SMH

    2. If a fade is called and there is one on one coverage there is no further progression. You throw the fade and let your WR make a play. The play calls were poor in going back to Crabtree multiple times, but the biggest mistake was calling a TO on a play where Kap was going to walk into the end zone. That is really where it was lost.

      1. The timeout that preceded the pass to Crabtree was almost as bad . The fade to Crabtree was on 4th down , he threw a terrible out route short of the gaily line on 3rd down

        1. The 3rd down play was a designed play to Crabtree NY. It was a short drop, stick and throw. There were no other options on that play. With the rush the Ravens were getting there was no time for progression plays. Every passing play they ran was designed to go to one guy (Crabtree) quickly.

          1. Crabtree was covered, all Kap had to do was roll right 2 steps, there was nobody near Delanie Walker

            1. I have no idea what play you are referring to because Walker wasn’t involved in any of the plays during that sequence.

              1. On that 3rd down play the “righter” is off. That’s Walker in the slot (yellow). Davis is split wide left.

              2. Walker wasn’t an option on that play Jack. It was a designed quick out to Crabtree to try and beat the pressure. That is the point.

              3. Whatever. All I’m saying was Walker is in the slot, not Davis, and he’s open. If he was or wasn’t an option neither of us knows for sure.

              4. There was no time to throw it to Walker. The Ravens brought a safety blitz on a 3 step drop. That’s why I’m saying Crabtree was the only option. Walker hadn’t even broken his route off by the time Kap had to throw the ball. You guys are making it seem like he just didn’t see him or screwed up and that’s not the case at all.

              5. I’m not making anything. I said it was Walker, not Davis, and we don’t know if Walker was to be an option.

                If you know for sure he wasn’t, cool.

              6. Should have never been in the playbook. The fade route was not the quarteback’s nor the receiver’s strength. Should have been 21 personnel with a tight end on each side, running a quick slant inside. Easy read and throw for Kaepernick and in a place where he excells, over the middle….

              7. The receiver has grown up since then, Jack. You talk him up a lot, and he has a better quarterback to throw him the ball. He also has a number one reciever opposite him. I would absolutely love to see the Raiders versus the Seahawks, and watch Crabtree crawl into a fetal position knowing Sherman was about to shake his tree….

          2. “With the rush the Ravens were getting there was no time for progression plays.” I agree rocket. I would add that the Ravens were offsides throughout the game. The refs sucked in that game. Ray Lewis had to go out on top. Just like Manning last year.

        2. No touch-Kap has always had virtually none. Seeing the whole field is something he won’t do on a consistent basis, either. Neither is reading defenses……….but we all know this.

          1. If that is true it was still irrelivant on that particular play. I remember hearing that there were open players on that play, so I went back and replayed and stopped the action when Kap was releasing the pass and no one was actually open. That player seemed open because as the ball was in the air his defender left him. He was open but not before the pass was released, What is forgotten is that Gore missed the block on the blitzer. If Gore picks him up like he should have Kap has time to roll out. The defender was on him too quick.

            Gore also missed blocking the blizer on the extra point attempt the series before. If he gets that block Kap has the option to either run or throw and they make the extra point. With that extra point made they have the option of going for a field goal to tie on that last fourth down play.

  21. Adding injury to insult , Crabtree took a shot to the head that the refs for some reason neglected to call …you wonder how much clarity Crabtree had on that 4th down fade

    1. Kap had time on the 3rd down , they blitz on 4th, he wasn’t looking for anyone but Crabtree on all three plays, any competent QB with the game on the line would have went thru his options, Walsh had to be rolling in his grave that series

  22. Cool story Grant, I like pondering what-ifs. I had a similar train of thought that they would have beaten the Ravens in the Superbowl if they hadn’t let special teams ace Blake Costanzo go that offseason. That kickoff return for a TD never would have happened on his watch.

  23. NY,

    It was a designed play. There was one option. That’s it. The Ravens were getting so much penetration on their pass rush that was all they could do.

      1. There was no second to buy. stop the action when he is releasing the ball. Walker is not open. He gets open after the fact. Most of you also do not consider passing lanes.You see plays from side camera view and not from the QB’s perspective. Why does no one put some blame on Gore for not picking up the blitzer. Why ? Because you are looking to find fault with Kaep.

  24. And closer to home. Hofer would still be frequenting this board. Claude Balls would be mixing it up with BayAreaFan. Jordo would still be complaining about how soft Vernon Davis is and 99% of the board would still want Captain Checkdown Alice gone. In other words, win or lose, people would find something to whine about.

  25. I’ve always maintained that it was the play that Justin Smith got injured against New England that cost us the Super Bowl and ultimately Harbaugh’s job. 2011 was unfortunate, but we definitely would have beaten the Ravens if Smith was healthy, just look at our defensive numbers pre and post the Smith injury that season (including playoffs) – night and day.


  26. Clever synopsis Grant. Could it have happened that way exactly. Who knows? We can “what if” the Forty Niners into many Championship games (pre-Super Bowl) and Super Bowls. They’ve had more than their share of future changing dramatic loses! 1970-71, 1971-72, 1983-84, 1990-91, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1997-98, 2011-12, 2013-14. 6-7 in opportunities to play in the Super Bowl. All of the loses include game changing plays that if changed could have changed the future of players and coaches. There is also the horrific fumble of the Dallas onside kick (my first playoff in person experience) by Preston Riley in the divisional playoff at Candlestick in 1972, the worst loss I ever experienced other than maybe the fumble by Roger in 1991. They had a 21-3 lead in that game early and a 28-13 lead with less than 6 minutes to go before Staubach led the dramatic comeback. If Riley catches that onside kick, I believe they would have gone onto beat the Redskins and then the Dolphins. That was an awesome Forty Niner team. 13 possible Super Bowls. Wow. Imagine. With as much ecstasy as we have enjoyed, we have endured a lot of grief! Now we have what we have. Talk about grief!

  27. Grant- your guesses could only happen if you could make time stop, which doesn’t happen, especially in the NFL. If things happened the way you fantasize, and we win that game and the next…

    Harbaugh still would be the head coach? Don’t think so. His track record suggests that he’s got about a four year shelf life. Either he gets tired of a gig, or the people around him get tired of his act.

    Vic Fangio Would be a head coach.

    Jim Tomsula would be a Coordinator somewhere.

    Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore would be fat cat free agents for other teams.

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